Daily Recap — September 11

Never Forget.


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TENSE TIMES IN SYRIA

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Tensions are high as ever inside Syria, as opposed to the calm, relaxing sauna therapy the country is known for.

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley warned Russia and Iran of “dire consequences” if they continue airstrikes against the last rebel-held area inside the country known as the Idlib province, saying the US would respond to any use of chemical weapons.

Haley’s Russian counterpart at the UN met her threat with a denial that Syria has any chemical weapons, as the UN secretary-general warned of a potential “bloodbath” during today’s UN Security Council meeting on the Idlib crisis.
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During what was the second session on Idlib in four days, Haley told the council that “the world has seen a clear military escalation” this month by Russia and the Assad regime, whose forces have conducted more than 100 airstrikes, using barrel bombs, rockets and artillery in an attempt to retake Idlib after more than seven years of war. She accused Russia and Iran of having little interest in a political solution and called their actions those of “cowards interested in a bloody military conquest.”
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“If Assad, Russia and Iran continue down the path they are on, the consequences will be dire,” Haley added.
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Sigh.
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“I also want to reiterate what I said last week to the Assad regime and anyone else contemplating the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Haley added. “The United States followed through when we said that we would respond to the use of chemical weapons. We stand by this warning.”
If I may offer a piece of advice to Mrs. Haley, please always be clear when discussing force on the world stage. I understand that the Trump administration’s view is to stand down unless chemical weapons are used, but a casual follower of the news could easily mistake this tough talk to mean any military action in the country whatsoever. For example, rather than “the path they’re on,” be specific with “the chemical path they’re on.” This makes it much harder for the Fake News to use quotes out of context in order to push a narrative of a failed red line, which is exactly what they’ll do.
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But that’s neither here nor there. Onward we proceed.
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For his own part, Secretary of Defense Mad Dog Mattis declined to say outright whether the US would take military action against the Assad regime should it use chemical weapons, but he did say Assad has “been warned.”
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“I’m not going to tell the world ahead of time what we’re going to do. It’s just not my style,” Mattis said, channeling his inner PDT.
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“I never talk about what would come next,” Mattis said. “But I think that you do have to look at the fact that we will abide by the chemical weapons prohibition and support it.”
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When the Fake News attempted to make him seem impotent by asking what the US has done to prevent chemical weapons use, Mattis referred to US, UK and French strikes on Syria after a chemical weapons attack in April. Assad “has been warned,” Mattis said.
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“The first time around he [Assad] lost 17% of his pointy-nosed air force airplanes. He’s been warned. And so we’ll see if he’s wised up.”
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Man, I’m glad I’m not on that guy’s bad list.
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SO WHAT IS THIS IDLIB PLACE, ANYWAY?

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It’s complicated.
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Idlib province is the last major stronghold of the rebel and jihadist groups which have been trying to overthrow Assad for the past seven years. It’s home to some 2.9 million people, including 1 million children. Almost half of the civilians in Idlib come from other previously rebel-held parts of Syria from which they either fled or were evacuated.

The province also borders Turkey to the north, and straddles major highways running south from Aleppo to Hama and the capital, Damascus, and west to the Mediterranean coastal city of Latakia.

Map showing control of Idlib province, Syria (3 September 2018)
Presentational white space

Essentially, if Idlib is taken by the government, it would leave rebels and jihadists alike with a few pockets of territory scattered across the country and effectively signal their final defeat.

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WHO ACTUALLY CONTROLS IDLIB?

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Now that’s really complicated.

There is certainly a hierarchy of groups within the area in terms of power, but the battlefield is so crowded that no single group can be considered to be in control. Idlib consists of a number of rival factions commanding up to an estimated 70,000 fighters, all struggling to be the big dog on the block.

The most dominant force is Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist alliance linked to al-Qaeda. HTS controls key locations across Idlib, including the provincial capital and the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. HTS is designated as a terrorist organization by the UN, which estimates it to have 10,000 fighters in Idlib, including many foreigners. Foreign fighters are a perk of Al Qaeda affiliation.

Following closely behind is the Turkish-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), the second most powerful alliance. It was formed this year by rebel factions wanting to counter HTS. They include the big hard-line Islamist groups of Ahrar al-Sham and the Nour al-Din al-Zinki Brigades, as well as others fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.

Yes, there are scores of jihadists fighting under the flag of “moderate” rebels. That’s what makes Syria a nearly impossible battlefield to navigate. It’s also why we would have been better off setting billions of dollars on fire rather than trying to prop up anti-Assad forces, #ButTheseAreMinorDetails.

Finally, you have the legitimate Free Syrian Army forces that were spawned by the Arab Spring. God knows who and where they are. I know our own guys on the ground are in constant contact with some, but they’re in no danger of overthrowing Assad anytime soon. They can’t even defeat the jihadists within their own ranks.

Just being honest.

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WHO ARE THE KEY PLAYERS?

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Aside from the U.S. and (obviously) Syria, the primary countries involved in this latest offensive are Russia, Iran and Turkey. It’s very easy to get lost in the geopolitical weeds discussing every country involved and their various interests, so we’ll stick to the meat and putaytahs. 


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Russia: Putin first intervened in Syria in October 2015 when it started airstrikes against anti-government targets. Moscow says it is targeting ISIS and other terrorist groups, which is technically correct, but their larger objective is to defeat any anti-Assad forces regardless of flag. Putin also takes great joy in bombing the fighters we’ve spent a metric buttload of money propping up. .

Putin wants to keep Assad – his closest ally in the Middle East – in power in order to secure his own military influence in the region. Russia has an important military airbase in the western province of Latakia and a naval base in the Syrian port city of Tartus. Putin is committed to flexing muscle and running the show in Syria for the long term. It doesn’t hurt that gaining a foothold in the region could help to leverage future energy deals, which the Russian economy is almost wholly reliant upon.


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Iran: Tehran has supported the Assad government since at least 2012, giving the regime extensive military aid in the form of training, weapons and intelligence sharing. It has also deployed Iran’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and Shiite militia from across the region.  Its main Jew-killing proxy, Hezbollah in Lebanon, is also a major backer of the Assad regime. 

Syria has long been Iran’s chief ally in the Middle East. Keeping Assad in power ensures an ally against Iran’s regional rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Tehran also needs Syria to transport weapons to Hezbollah for the purpose of killing as many Israelis as possible. Iran’s larger goal is to create a land corridor extending from Iran to Lebanon through Iraq and Syria. Operating an anti-Semitic terror network has never been so efficient!


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Turkey: From the start of the Syrian civil war, Turkey has been one of the main backers of the Syrian opposition. Turkey has fought alongside non-Kurdish factions in the Syrian opposition including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who you’ll recall as the legitimate, non-jihadist anti-Assad forces. And you wouldn’t know it by recent events, but aside from their killing of the Kurds, they’ve actually been a fairly solid ally. Then again, we’ve shamefully abandoned the Kurds as of late, so I suppose we don’t have much say in the matter.

Turkey conducted airstrikes against ISIS targets as part of the US-led coalition. It has also carried out unilateral airstrikes against Kurdish opposition forces in northern Syria and even sent ground forces in to fight ISIS and Kurdish forces as part of the Turkish-led operation known as “Euphrates Shield.” As part of a “de-confliction zone” agreed to with Russia and Iran, Turkey has also moved into Idlib province alongside rebels it backs. 

Turkey wants to block Syrian Kurdish territorial gains and prevent them from gaining autonomy in any post-war settlement. Turkey says that Syrian Kurdish fighters are tied to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a more than three decade war in Turkey. But while Erdogan has his interests in defeating Kurdish opposition to his own rule, Turkey has a whole also has a stake in defeating ISIS and other jihadist groups that have committed terrorist attacks on Turkish soil.

Recently, Turkish leaders have been ambivalent on whether Assad should be allowed to stay in power in a final peace deal. I’ll go ahead and save you the suspense: they’ll accept Assad being in power. If the US understands the pitfalls of regime change within Syria, Turkey certainly does.

Erdogan’s most urgent interest in pleading to Putin to go easy on Idlib is the prospect of another refugee crisis. Turkey is already home to over 3 million Syrian refugees, though granted they’re being paid by the EU to house many of those as a way to keep them from European shores. Once the fighting gets really nasty, many people are sure to head north to Turkey’s border. They’ll be disappointed to find that it’s been effectively sealed off, however, so that should be interesting to watch.

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BIG PICTURE:

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Syria is a really complicated place with myriad entities all chasing their respective interests. I’m gonna break it down very simply, though. Syria belongs to Putin. He wants it, he can have it — along with all the headaches of occupying a Muslim country. 

The Trump administration is taking a hands-off approach so long as no chemical weapons get involved. But given the debatable evidence following the previous two strikes, I’d hardly call that a cut and dried policy.

My fear is that Putin will provoke PDT in some way in the area, whether it’s taking an offensive posture toward American troops or going crazy with the chlorine bombs. I believe Trump, much like his base, wants no part of a Syrian civil war. That’s a good thing. But the downside is Putin believes that, too, and Russian leaders are notorious for taking advantage of such situations in order to project strength.

This is a very delicate situation. Whatever happens, I hope PDT will be measured in any response to events on the ground. This could escalate quickly.

Please pray for our world. We’re never more than one international incident away from WWIII.

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KEEBLER DOES A SOLID

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Don’t throw things at me for writing hopeful things about Jeff Sessions. I’m just reporting the news here, people.

Keebler Jeff is reportedly “exploring” a potential investigation of social media companies and will be briefed on Sept. 25 by Republican state attorneys general who are already examining the matter.

The meeting — which will include a representative of the DOJ’s antitrust division (they really do read my recaps!) — is intended to help Keebler decide if there’s a federal case to be made against companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter for violating consumer-protection or antitrust laws. 
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Sessions apparently hasn’t made up his mind about exactly what he wants to do, but we do know that at least one of the attorneys general participating in the meeting has indicated he seeks to break up the companies. 

Perhaps his balls could rub off on Jeff?

On second thought, I wish I’d worded that differently.


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The Sept. 25 briefing will include attorneys general from Alabama, Nebraska, Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas. All good, wholesome Trump states. Not the homeless-people-covered-in-poop-and-heroin-needles states that voted for Hillary. So that’s good news from the start.

One reason Sessions decided to meet with the state officials is to determine if they have any evidence of bias against conservatives by the social media companies. Only Keebler would need to convene a massive meeting with state attorneys general to learn whether there is evidence of anti-conservative bias in big tech. YOU COULD LITERALLY JUST ASK ANY CONSERVATIVE WHO’S EVER BEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA, JEFF. 

But I musn’t lose my cool just yet, as Keebler is taking positive steps toward tackling something that most every conservative agrees needs to be addressed sooner rather than later, while we still have any voice at all. 

The good news is, after waking from his slumber and seeing the massive interest in this issue from people and leaders across the country, Sessions is now considering whether to open up the briefing to more attorneys general or hold a separate, bigger meeting. The White House is also considering whether it should hold a meeting instead of the Justice Department.

Frankly, I’m leaning toward the White House on this one. But I don’t really get a say, so….


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STATES OUT AHEAD OF THE DOJ:

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Louisiana AG Jeff Landry says he looks forward to hearing from Keebler and other states about “what the next steps may be,” according to his spokeswoman. I wish she’d elaborated as to what the first steps were so I could get nice warm fuzzies, but no such luck.

Landry said in an interview last week with a Shreveport radio station that he’s “extremely concerned” about data collection by Google, Facebook and Twitter and the suppression of conservative viewpoints, but added that he’s “thrilled” by the Justice Department’s interest.

“Those are the kind of resources that we’re going need to break these companies up,” Landry said in the interview with KEEL News Radio 710. “The problem is they’ve got no competition.”

Agreed!

Separately, a spokeswoman for Arizona AG Mark Brnovich said his office had retained outside counsel to assist in a long-running consumer fraud investigation over tracking of consumers’ locations through smartphones even when they disabled location services.

“While we cannot confirm the company or companies at the center of this probe, we decided to move forward and retain outside counsel after a series of troubling news reports, including a recent story that highlighted Google’s alleged tracking of consumer movements even if consumers attempt to opt out of such services,” said the spokeswoman, Katie Conner.

Brnovich, whose office also said it wasn’t even aware of an invitation to the Justice Dept meeting, hired a Washington firm with ties to Keebler Jeff, so maybe they can open their friggin lines of communication from here on out.

Annoyance aside, this is a very important thing Arizona is doing. Here’s to hoping Sessions follows their lead in combating this dangerous and immoral practice.

And finally, last year, Missouri AG Josh Hawley opened an antitrust investigation into whether Google manipulated search results to benefit its own products and whether it scrapes information without permission from competitors. I’m unable to find any information on whether Hawley is attending or even aware of the Sessions meeting.

I will save you some suspense, though. Of course Google manipulates its search engine to favor its own products. Can you imagine a giant corporation not stacking the deck in its own favor?

Don’t be naive.


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BIG PICTURE:

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Make no mistake about it — a DOJ probe of social media giants for improper business practices would trigger a political firestorm like no other. That’s why the cowards of the Republican party haven’t been willing to go anywhere near it, despite how much it affects their constituents. Thankfully, as usual, PDT doesn’t have the same shortcomings as our RINO representatives, and has been sounding the alarm for a little while now. 

“Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices,” PDT said on Twitter in August. “Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others.”

And like always, now that PDT has stepped up to the plate to do what they never would, congressional Republicans have suddenly found their courage to speak up, too. Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy has already signaled that Google will be called back up to Capitol Hill, and that they will even be required to send a high-ranking representative this time!

McCarthy tweeted this earlier today:

mcca

Between the actions of the states and the newfound courage of the congressional GOP, might the tech giants finally be held to account under the same antitrust laws that every other industry is beholden to?

I’m not banking on anything, as I learned not to get my hopes up on things long ago. But moves are being made. That, at least, gives me hope.

And I’ll take all of that I can get.

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SANITY SPOTTED IN NEW MEXICO

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After this past month, God knows they need it.

A federal grand jury in New Mexico has returned indictments on federal firearms and conspiracy charges against five people arrested after authorities found 11 starving children and the body of dead baby boy at their makeshift compound.

Prosecutors said in a criminal complaint that the five charged had a “common plan to prepare for violent attacks on government, military, educational, and financial institutions” as part of one of the defendant’s religious prophecies.

How odd…his “prophecies” happen to be the blueprint followed by jihadists across the globe. What a coinkydink!


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Siraj Ibn Wahhaj, 40; Jany Leveille, 35; Hujrah Wahhaj, 37; Subhanah Wahhaj, 35; and Lucas Morton, 40, are charged with one federal count each of conspiracy to provide a person unlawfully in the United States with firearms and ammunition.

And whaddayaknow….one of the defendants being charged with unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, Jany Leveille, is a native of Haiti living unlawfully in our country. 

Just to refresh your memory, all five were arrested in early August after police raided the compound where they lived in Amalia in Taos County, located in the northern part of the state. Among the things found on the compound property were guns, ammunition, and 11 children living in squalor. And oh yeah, there was the body of Siraj Wahhaj’s 3-year-old son, who he is accused of kidnapping from the boy’s mother in Georgia.

Prosecutors say that the toddler, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, died in December 2017 in an insane Islamic ritual carried out because his father believed his son was possessed by demons, and that the child was denied anti-seizure medication or medical care. Plot twist: it was the father who was possessed this whole time….by a demon named Mohammad!


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Prosecutors also say that the five Muslims established a training camp and firing range to prepare for attacks, and that Leveille and Siraj Wahhaj sought to train people, including children, to “be prepared to engage in jihad” and “die as martyrs.”

In response, Von Chelet Leveille has said his sister and the rest of the group at the compound were misunderstood and he disputed allegations that the children were being taught to commit school shootings.

He said the two older children asked to be taught to shoot, and that the family’s use of firearms was legal and innocent. Then, in the same breath, he also said the group went to the desert because they no longer wanted to live as American Muslims in a society mostly populated by non-Muslims.

Two things here. 

First, when Muslims purposely alienate themselves in the desert with a bunch of starving children, one of them dead, sorry, you don’t get the benefit of the doubt. Especially when the kids themselves are the source for the information on training.

Secondly, if you prefer to live in a country populated by Muslims, GO FRIGGIN DO IT. WHY ARE YOU HERE.

Oh, that’s right. I know why you’re here.


All five of these 7th century barbarians are scheduled to appear in court tomorrow (Sep.12) to be arraigned. 

I’ll keep you posted, assuming I retain my sanity.

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1 thought on “Daily Recap — September 11

  1. Kathryn Suzanne Sower September 12, 2018 — 10:00 am

    Trey Vaught, you are the single voice of sanity in this chemical bowl of soup simmering away to WWWIII. Too many cooks in the pot so to speak, & somehow you have managed to identify everyone of them and their spice, & danger. There is really no place no hide. Excellent work, Trey, Thank you.

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